Saving Cooum: a citizen’s ambition

K. Mugundhan wants to clean the river and save its unpolluted stretches

As far as ambition goes, K. Mugundhan, an ITES professional, is reaching for the stars. Not for personal or professional achievement, but to clean the Cooum. Mugundhan’s aim is to save the unpolluted stretches of the river as it meanders through Tiruvallur district before entering Chennai and flowing into its most polluted stretch.

He shares a special bond with the river that flows behind his house at Anaikattucherry, a village near Pattabiram, where he played and caught fish in his childhood. But his worries started with the slow destruction of the river because of sand mining and pollution.


Mr. Mugundhan’s first attempt to protect the river started five years ago when a local body in Thirumazhisai decided to lay a pipeline to let treated sewage into the clean portion. “This part of the river is healthy, and several families depend on the Cooum for drinking water and agriculture. We fought to divert the pipeline to the polluted stretch downstream near Thiruverkadu,” he said.

But his fight continues as several individuals continue to litter the Cooum and try to release sewage. He started the Unpolluted Cooum River Protection Committee and campaigned through social media to ‘Save unpolluted part of Cooum’, and more recently ‘Let’s drink from Cooum’ to create awareness among people in other parts of the city. “A walk along the river bank for me is like returning to my grandmother’s unconditional love. Our ties with waterbodies have been cut off. I wanted to pass on this joy to children and help them build a healthy relationship with the river,” he said. In 2017, he, along with other villagers, started ‘Vetriyalar Pattarai’ to invoke interest among children in the conservation of waterbodies and other life skills through field trips. During weekends and on holidays, children get to enjoy the dawn by the scenic waterway, catch fish in the crystal-clear waters, plant saplings along the banks and learn about the threats to the river.

The forum now has 150 children attending vocational classes at a concessional rate. Children would soon be engaged in planting of 500 saplings along the banks. “Our village got its name from storage structures or channels that were created earlier to divert water from the Cooum to fill 20 lakes. Many lakes are yet to fill up as these channels have been silted. We hold meetings in the village every month on the means of protecting waterbodies. I believe that we’ll be able to bring about a change together,” he said.

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